By Jimbo Collins/For The Times-Tribune

Knox Central beat Madison Southern everywhere but on the scoreboard Friday.

The Eagles, after only gaining 26 yards offensively in the first half, scored 14 points in the second half to steal the victory from the Panthers.

Zach McGuire connected with Daron Thomas for a 14-yard touchdown pass with 7:54 left in the fourth quarter to complete the comeback and give Madison Southern 3-3 (2-0) a 20-19 victory.

Knox Central (3-2, 0-1) scored first in the opening quarter. The Panthers took the ball 60 yards on nine plays on their first drive of the game. Cory Smith found Jordan Ellenburg in the endzone with a touchdown pass to put Knox Central up 6-0. Greg Phillips added the PAT to make the score 7-0 with 8:05 left in the first quarter.

The Panthers rushed for 205 yards in the game, dominating the line of scrimmage in the first half. Knox Central also held Madison Southern to only 26 yards of total offense in the first half.

“We worked that all week. We thought we could run the football and we did,” Knox Central coach Wayne Mills said. “It is hard to put in words where we lost this one at. It’s a tough one to lose and I hate to lose it.”

Even though the Panthers dominated the line of scrimmage, time of possession, and all statistical categories in the first half, they only led 13-6 at halftime. With less than 10 minutes to play in the second quarter, the Panthers were faced with a fouRth-and-11 at the Madison Southern 39-yard line.

Knox Central attempted a fake punt and tried snapping the ball directly to Brandon Tolliver. Tolliver never got control of the snap and it resulted in a fumble on the play. The Eagles’ Ben Cooper picked up the ball and scampered for a 55-yard touchdown return. The Conversion failed leaving the score 7-6 with 9:25 left in the second quarter.

“That’s the difference right there,” Mills said. “They scoop and score. We’ve got a little momentum going right there and we are across midfield. You know in hindsight, we probably shouldn’t have done it. It was a called fake punt, we felt like we had the momentum. The whole right side was sucked in and if he catches the ball, we are off to the races.”

Knox Central answered with a 15-play, 75-yard drive capped off by a two-yard touchdown run by Tolliver. The PAT was blocked making the score 13-6 with 2:31 left in the quarter. Knox Central was 1-for-3 on PAT’s in the game.

“I am proud of my boys,” Mills said. “We did a good job and we were well prepared. I still don’t know where we lost it at, but the film will tell. It’s just one of them games that is heart wrenching and it just makes you sick and I just hate it for the kids because they put so much effort in it. We came up short, but I sure am proud of our kids.”

Knox Central outgained Madison Southern 355 yards to 168 yards in total offense for the game. The Eagles managed to escape with the win by taking over the momentum in the second half.

The Panthers looked like they may have sealed the win about midway through the third quarter when six penalties by Madison Southern gave them first and goal from the four yard line.

Knox Central scored on third and goal on a quarterback keeper by Smith from the three yard-line with 5:02 in the third. The PAT was no good leaving the score at 19-6.

Madison Southern took over from that point on. The Eagles mounted a 16-play, 54-yard scoring drive. McGuire scored on third and goal with no time left in the third. He also ran in the conversion making the score 19-12.

“I don’t know if we just got a little tired in the second half and didn’t get the rush we were getting early on. There is just so many ‘what ifs?’ in this game,” Mills said.

The Panthers went three and out on the first series of the fourth quarter, and gave the Eagles excellent field position to start their drive. Madison Southern took over on the its own 41 yardline after the punt.

It took the Eagles only seven plays to take the lead. McGuire, who was 13-of-27 for 109 yards and one touchdown after going 0-of-9 in the first half, connected with Daron Thomas for the game winning touchdown pass with 7:54 left in the game.

Mills said his team has proven they can compete in the district and still has a chance to make the playoffs.

“We have to find a way to bounce back. I think we can’t pack it in. There is five district games left and anything is possible. We showed we can play football here tonight,” he said.

Mills also knows things are not getting any easier as now the Panthers must go on the road two weeks in a row before playing three district powerhouses (Clay County, Bell County, and Rockcastle County) to finish off the season.

“We have to go on the road the next two weeks and win two ball games to keep ourselves afloat. Our kids will keep playing and we’ll keep coaching and we will see what happens,” Mills added.

Knox Central plays at Perry County Central Friday. Kick off is set for 7:30 p.m.

Madison Southern 20, Knox Central 19

Madison Southern 0 6 8 6 20

Knox Central 7 6 6 0 19

First Quarter

KC - Ellenburg 16 pass from Smith (Phillips Kick) 8:40

Second Quarter

MS - Cooper 55 fumble return (Conv. failed) 9:25

KC - Tolliver 2 run (Kick blocked) 2:31

Third Quarter

KC - Smith 1 run (Kick failed) 5:02

MS - McGuire 1 run (McGuire run) :00

Fourth Quarter

MS - Thomas 14 pass from McGuire (Conv. failed) 7:54

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